She wasn’t planning on it, but Math’ieya Alatini is seeking another three-year term as Kluane First Nation chief.
Elections for the Burwash Landing-based First Nation are Aug. 9. Alyce Johnson and Shannon Walker are also running for the top position.
“We’re halfway through a bunch of initiatives,” Alatini said in an interview this week. “It would feel like I’m leaving a job half-done, and I’m not one to do that.”
Things take longer to happen in government than she’d like, said Alatini. That was one of the biggest challenges she faced in her first term, she said.
If elected, she wants to bring in more workshops about communication and non-violent conflict resolution so citizens can better understand the legacy of residential schools, she said. But resources are limited. The First Nation has around 280 members and a budget of about $5.6 million, she said.
Much of the last two years has been spent figuring out how the government can do everything larger First Nations do with a “meaner, leaner staff,” she said. This has meant cutting a couple director positions and focusing more on ways to deliver hands-on services, she said. In the past three years, there have been five general assemblies and the First Nation’s constitution and elections act have been updated. New acts have also been created – a governance act, a financial management act and a lands act.
The lands act is particularly important to helping the First Nation achieve home ownership, a big priority for Alatini. The First Nation owns 65 units in Burwash Landing, but only Kluane First Nation employees who aren’t citizens of the First Nation pay rent. The First Nation passed its lands and natural resources act and tenure regulations in January 2012. This means the First Nation has legal authority to do things like make leases. The goal is to have First Nation citizens owning their own homes.
“I thought that we’d be able to do this in a year, that it’d be so simple. ‘We’re self-governing. We can do this,’” said Alatini. “But no, it’s not that simple.”
The First Nation still has to create a land registry and land titles act. That would allow banks to give mortgages for properties on the First Nation’s land, said Alatini.
The problem isn’t lack of jobs, she said. Very few people are living off social assistance right now, she said. The problem is finding homes for all of them to live. Construction materials for a unit that will have four two-bedroom apartments arrived this week. The exterior should be completed in September, said Alatini.
Creating a lands registry and building homes aren’t the only projects she wants to complete.
Construction on a 250-kilowatt wind farm should begin next year. It could cut down the community’s diesel consumption by about 160,000 litres a year. The First Nation also has done a cost analysis for a geothermal project that could allow them to heat around 30 homes, as well as the greenhouse and other community buildings. This could make it easier to supply fresh food to Burwash Landing and the surrounding communities, said Alatini.
Being good stewards of the land is part of what it means to be self-governing, said Alatini.
It was a big part of an agreement the First Nation signed with the Yukon government this week. The non-legally binding agreement confirms which priorities the two governments will work together on during the next five years.
This includes creating management plans for Asa Keyi Park and Pickhandle Lakes Habitat Protection Area and managing the moose population in the First Nation’s traditional territory. The moose population is much lower there than throughout the rest of Yukon.
The First Nation is working with the Yukon government, Parks Canada, and the Dan Keyi Renewable Resources Council to decrease moose hunting in the area. This might mean encouraging citizens to hunt bison instead of moose, said Alatini.
The upcoming election didn’t influence the timing of the agreement, said Alatini. It’s been in the works for months. It was just a matter of making sure the different ministers were able to review everything they needed to, she said.
The agreement also lists education as a priority for the two governments.
There’s no school in Burwash Landing, so students attend elementary school in Destruction Bay. Often families leave the community once their children reach high school, said Alatini. She wants this to change.
Former premier Dennis Fentie promised Burwash Landing would get a new school after the new F.H. Collins was built, said Alatini. The First Nation wants to make sure this happens. The plan is to gut the current administration building and sell it to the Yukon government for use as a school, said Alatini.
But some of the greatest challenges the First Nation faces come from within, she said.
Many people still have an attitude of entitlement from days of receiving services from the Department of Indian Affairs, she said.
Often members expect the government to do things for them, said Alatini. But part of being a self-governing First Nation means taking responsibility.
“(The government) is everybody – Kluane First Nation members are Kluane First Nation,” she said.
The First Nation is moving in a healthy direction, said Alatini. More children are learning Southern Tutchone – and parents want to learn the language, if only to understand what their children are arguing about, she said.
Burwash Landing is becoming more of a community, said Alatini, whose family hosts ping-pong nights at their home. People are coming back to raise their families there, she said. This needs to continue.
“I’m really about creating a long-term vision for our nation and I’m not in it for me and the job. I want to make sure that this nation is here for my children and my children’s children to be a part of,” said Alatini.
Kluane First Nation members can cast their ballots at the Jacquot Building on Aug. 9 or at the advance poll on Aug. 3. Citizens can also mail in their ballots.
Five people are running for two council-at-large seats. Janice Dubois, Elodie Dulac, Keith Johnson, Monique Martin and Grace Southwick are seeking these positions. Youth councillor Jared Dulac and elder councillor Sharon Cabanak have both been acclaimed.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at